The Pre-Questions

We recently began offering the Minding the Gap Master Class and one of the methods that participants are finding helpful is this tool that we have been using ourselves for the last several years.  The whole Master Class gives you the tools to help you increase engagement from students, employees or any group of people and take advantage of our growing knowledge of neuroscience and the way human beings interact with the world to cause availability.  We believe availability is the game-changing disposition or attitude that you can help create in yourself and others.  

When someone IS available, they are…  When someone is NOT available, they are…
  • Open, Receptive
  • Considering
  • Adaptable
  • Willing
  • Tuned in and aware
  • Future oriented
  • Connected
  • Responsive
  • Closed
  • Guarded
  • Distracted
  • Reactive
  • Not able to listen well
  • Limited view of the future
  • Risk-averse
  • Quick to blame

 

Creating environments where people are more available increases their ability to participate, learn and collaborate – key elements of human performance and achievement.  One of the main ways to do this is to first cause availability in yourself.  One of the methods we use for this are the Pre-Questions, which we explain below.

Why Do the Pre-Questions Work?

Have you ever worked with a group and gotten caught off-guard by logistic issues you did not plan for?  Or had your agenda ‘blow up’ when a tangent issue took the focus off your main outcomes? Or had your enthusiasm and love for what you were doing disappear into frustration while you dealt with all the minute details?  We know what each of those situations feel like and how they can impact your objectives. We developed the Pre-Questions to balance the doing and being of working with a group.  They help ground you in the reality of your task while also creating a context that helps you keep sight of the larger view and build availability.

The Pre-Questions are effective for classes, workshops, discussions, even staff meetings. Put pen to paper and write them out, along with your answers.  At first it will take some time to answer them well: take the time necessary and you will find they are a valuable preparation tool. Eventually you will get to the point where you can answer them swiftly in your head and they will quickly support the foundation of the upcoming work and give you a context for it as well.  

The Pre-Questions

What are the 3 or 4 main ideas/outcomes?

There are certain outcomes you are looking to achieve and this will not happen unless people build understanding of some core ideas or develop some key areas.  The class, meeting, workshop or training may have 10 separate pieces, yet this question asks you to identify the 3-4 main ones. If the participants considered, chewed on, and understood those main points or completed those key tasks, the time together would be a success.   Keeping your focus on the 3-4 main ideas/outcomes helps you hone in on the main point, or the essence of your work. The narrowed perspective sharpens your awareness, alerts you to potential tangents and distractions and gives your “backbone” more strength. We find that answering this question often provides some relief for new teachers or facilitators who swiftly overwhelm themselves with long lists of what they believe they need to achieve.  Focus on key elements and you will ‘prime’ your attention to be predisposed to those outcomes and not distracted by the superfluous.

What must I keep my eyes on?

This question relates more to the physical doing of your work in a holistic sense.  What supplies need to be ready? How will you move the group from working all together to being in small groups?  Where are there moments to have fun and laugh and where are there moments to be serious, wait or promote safety? While there may be countless things to “keep your eyes on”, asking this question orients you to the micro and macro landscape of your time with the group.  If you think about your work with people like cooking a meal for guests, this question may simultaneously help you imagine the ‘flow’ of the meal you are creating and highlight potential trouble spots. As you begin to answer this question, first pay attention to those things that if they are not managed, the whole session/meal would be in jeopardy (Do I have enough chairs? How will I be social and manage the grill at the same time?).  Just like a great chef, your ability to simultaneously manage the ingredients, the flavor of several dishes and the ambiance of the dining room will grow over time.

What is profound about this work I am about to do?

This question is purposefully evocative. This is a Cause Pause™ question that is very difficult to answer from a doing disposition or perspective.  It effectively places you in a position of being and availability.  This question and the thinking and thoughtfulness it elicits help provide a necessary reminder about what is underneath your work.  What is it that you are providing for people? What is it you are creating with them? Why is not just important, but profoundly important?  

The definition of profound is:  very great or intense; originating or penetrating to the depths of one’s being; being or going far beneath what is superficial, external, obvious.  Asking this question cannot be answered from a place of agenda pieces or supply lists, it can only be answered from a place of availability.  Even a mundane staff meeting can be seen as being ‘profound’ through this context if you give yourself time to reflect.  

The Pre-Questions align the dual guidance systems of human beings and bring all aspects to the forefront at the same time.   It helps balance the doing and the being of your work and cause relational environments where people are more available.  

We asked teachers what difference the Pre-Questions made and they responded: 

 

  • “The first two questions helped me with my detail planning, which I need help with.  I was more prepared. The last question got me out of my head and helped slow me down.”
  • “I was worried about doing it right.  The Pre-Questions gave me a big picture of the whole thing and I realized I was worried about little pieces to the point where I had lost sight of what we were aiming for.”

 

Use the Pre-Questions to prepare you in your work with staff, students or other groups.  They are one of many tools you will learn in the Minding the Gap Master Class that helps orient yourself and others to relational environments that easily increase participation, learning and collaboration.

Learn more at boldleaders.org/institute and ENROLL Here!